Review Summary: It's not uber-tech and off the wall crazy, but it's still a strong release from these experimental hardcore pioneers.
Things that are easy to get into are prized quite heavily in our society, whether it’s a hot girl’s pants, the taste of a food or a good TV series accessibility means everything to a lot of people. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the world of music. Is it any wonder that the majority of listeners never step outside the boundaries of radio? Those catchy 3-4 minute songs that are littered with hooks and sing along choruses get people going and it’s rather obvious why. Of course there are those of us on the other side of the spectrum, people who live for the dissonance and chaos that can be produced by a musician or group thereof.
And it’s that very concept of chaotic music that leads us to The Dillinger Escape Plan. Their debut full-length Calculating Infinity was intense and psychotic, grinding and blasting its way into the annals of heavy music. Years later the band took that same formula and added a sense of harmony, whilst experimenting in numerous unique ways. Miss Machine was the album that set the band apart from many of their contemporaries keeping the sound of Calculating Infinity but providing a much more palatable and experimental sound.
So where to go from there? Would the band heed the criticism of their original fans who screamed sell-out (Which is incredibly stupid) or would they continue experimenting with their sound? It seems neither is the case. Rather than further their experimentation the band has again showed some restraint, whilst there are definitely moments of experimentation (“When Acting As A Particle”, “Sick On Sunday”) the band has taken a page from the realms of pop and made an album that can be seen as an instant commercial success.
At times the band maintains their heavier origins with tracks like “Fix Your Face” and “82588” which serve the purpose of keeping older fans happy, but mostly there is a far less abrasive tone to the album. Previously the band had experimented with adding soothing melody into harsher tracks. “Baby’s First Coffin” was a prime example of DEP’s foray into clean sections. As such there are far cleaner and vicariously easy going sections to be found on Ire Works. Tracks like Black Bubblegum lack anything resembling Grindcore or Mathcore and are far more focused on traditional verse-chorus-verse structure.
Lead single “Milk Lizard” features a subdued raspy vocal style that occasionally returns to Puciato’s screams but never really enters the hardcore realm. On the other hand “Horse Hunter” could be seen as the sequel to “Baby’s First Coffin” it’s a heavy song that features superb use of clean sections to give the listener some breathing room without losing its edge. Of course a further jump into the land of pop is shown with “Dead As History” the most mellow song on the album.
Instrumentally the album is similarly restrained. The technicality is still there but entire songs are lacking anything resembling the older Dillinger sound and that can at times be a bother. Although tracks like Black Bubblegum wouldn’t work with more technical work some might’ve preferred entirely different songs altogether. Gil Sharone does his best to replace Chris Pennie but I can’t help but feel that the focus on simpler music has lead to his talent being slightly wasted.
Puciato’s vocal work is still very solid, although his mid-range cleans/rasps can be a tad nasally at times they never get to that whiny point so many other singers spend their time in. His harsh vocals are as gut wrenching and cathartic as ever and his occasional journey into falsetto territory is a welcome addition. The guitar work although suffering from a drop in technicality is still quite impressive if a little watered down to counter this the bass has become a much more prominent part of their sound.
However, the album definitely isn’t without fault; the biggest issue with Ire Works is that it really seems like Miss Machine’s second coming. The album is the 17 year old sister to Miss Machine’s 20 year old. It’s more attractive and easy going, but when it comes to deeper thought it’s relatively lacking. Whilst the poppier sounds are welcome they do get to a point where it can really drill into your brain leaving you tired. For every element of chaos that is silenced the album gains a slightly duller and more generic sound.
That being said the album is far from generic. Ire Works is still an impressive album, those expecting a return to DEP’s earlier work are sure to be disappointed but at the end of the day the band has still crafted an impressive album. It's not a perfect album and some areas come off as being too similar to earlier works but it still manages to stay strong. Gone are the days of Dillinger Escape Plan being the flag bearers of abrasive and chaotic hardcore, today we have ourselves an easy-going but still energetic DEP and if that doesn’t sit well with you then don’t listen to it.